Friday 4 August 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 4/8/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Out-of-office politics

While Donald Trump was in a federal courthouse in Washington yesterday being arraigned for the third time, Joe Biden was “doing beach” (yes, I’ve seen Barbie). Rehoboth Beach in Delaware has an illustrious history: after the paved highway from Washington DC was completed in 1925, the town became known as the “Nation’s Summer Capital”. These days, DC lawmakers and staff will fly home for the summer recess but Rehoboth Beach has kept its political allure thanks to Biden keeping a summer home here.

I recently trod the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk with the town's non-partisan mayor, Stan Mills. He has met Biden only once, when the president hosted a press conference at city hall. Otherwise the Bidens keep to themselves, enjoying a private beach area by their home just north of the boardwalk and taking cycle rides in the nearby state park. First Lady Jill Biden is a little more adventurous, partly because she requires a less extensive secret-service entourage, and will frequent downtown establishments.

Mayor Mills tells me that the Bidens have put Rehoboth Beach “back on the map”. A lone Trump supporter in a truck is a frequent protester, prompting some resident complaints, but Mayor Mills says that freedom of speech applies to all. Beyond that, he’s keen to keep DC politics away from this town – and, Mills says, the Bidens haven’t intervened in city hall either.

Intentional or not, Biden’s Rehoboth Beach holiday also sends a message that he has no involvement in the legal cases pending against his predecessor and probable 2024 challenger. But perhaps the simpler lesson is that now is a time to reflect and recharge. We could all use a break from the news ahead of what’s going to be another historic year. Even if just for a few weeks, let’s all “do beach” and leave the politicking back in DC.

Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s Washington correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Thailand

Lead balloon

Political uncertainty continues to dog Thailand after parliament cancelled its latest attempt to vote for a new prime minister. Today the Pheu Thai party – runners-up in May’s election – had been expecting to see its candidate, Srettha Thavisin (pictured), become Thailand’s 30th leader. The business tycoon emerged as a frontrunner when conservative lawmakers blocked the appointment of Move Forward’s Pita Limjaroenrat, handing Pheu Thai the chance of fronting the next government.

But the next vote will now be delayed by at least two weeks. Officially, the hold-up is a result of the constitutional court’s ruling but most legal decisions by Thailand’s conservative judiciary need to be viewed within a broader political context. Earlier this week, in a bid to win support from rival lawmakers, Pheu Thai ripped up its coalition agreement with Move Forward and vowed to leave Thailand’s controversial lèse-majesté law untouched. Those moves were thought to be enough to win over the establishment, but clearly, not everyone is convinced.

Image: Alamy

F&B / Global

Oil change

With southern Europe experiencing soaring temperatures and droughts, North Africa and the Middle East have a hot new commodity: olive oil. During the 2022-2023 olive harvest in Spain, where half of the world’s olive oil is made, production was down to 620,000 tonnes compared with the 1.5 million tonnes that the country usually generates every year.

Spanish producers have been looking to the likes of Tunisia, Lebanon and Jordan to bulk up their supplies. The Arab world’s olive trees are more resistant to droughts than European varieties so the region is increasing its exports to fill the gap. This unprecedented demand has bolstered prices in Tunisia where the cost of extra virgin olive oil has more than doubled in a year to about €7 per kilo. In Turkey, meanwhile, bulk olive oil is so desirable that the government has rolled out an export tax. Some might call it a new oil rush.

Image: Shutterstock

Transport / Saudi Arabia & Morocco

Grow with the flow

Saudi low-cost Flynas airline has launched a direct route between Jeddah and Casablanca – all part of Saudi Arabia’s strategic move to raise its international profile and bolster tourism. Flynas will now operate three non-stop services per week, a move that comes off the back of a similar announcement last year regarding direct flights to Algiers, Marseille and Almaty. The Gulf state is pushing to expand its connections to 250 countries and attract 100 million tourists a year as part of the government’s Vision 2030 programme.

“The initiative is multilayered but, at its root, it is about diversifying the Saudi economy,” William Lawrence, professor of political science and international affairs at the American University in Washington, tells The Monocle Minute. “More travel means more hotel infrastructure, which in turn leads to extended stays and, eventually, residency. An increase in growth, construction and architecture is inevitable. There is nothing but upsides for both countries.”

Image: Alamy

Society / France

On different pages

No trip to Paris is complete without perusing the book stalls that line the Seine – but next year’s Olympics have put the iconic stands in danger. There are about 230 booksellers along a 3km stretch of the river, making it Europe’s largest open-air book market. These bouquinistes have been told that, as a result of security issues, about 170 of the stalls will be required to dismantle and potentially move for at least two weeks during next year’s event.

It is not just a loss of income that will affect the riverfront kiosks; some are worried that moving could cause permanent damage. “Not only will their bookcases crumble like dust as soon as they are removed but many Parisians also worry that the bouquinistes won’t be able to recover,” Agnès Poirier, a journalist and the author of Notre-Dame: The Soul of France, tells The Monocle Minute. Some vendors have vowed to resist, even threatening to barricade themselves in front of their stalls. Now that would be one for the books.

Image: Petros

Monocle Radio / Monocle On Culture

Summer sounds

Robert Bound is joined in the studio by Natty Kasambala and Kate Hutchinson to discuss the songs that encapsulate the sound of summer 2023, which of this year’s festivals guarantee a good time and the best forthcoming album releases.

Monocle Films / Food & Drink

Fruitful endeavours

Climate change is prompting fruit farmers to diversify and coffee roasters to start considering areas beyond the so-called bean belt to source their raw material. In Sicily, Morettino, a forward-looking family-run roastery, has already started growing coffee plants in Palermo, creating an espresso that is truly made in Italy. To discover more surprising business opportunities, subscribe to Monocle magazine today.


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